At 8.30 am the air is still a little crisp, but the pot of salvia is in full sun. There are a few blue-banded bees (Amegilla murrayensis) on the pink-tipped Hot Lips flowers, some sucking from the sides but most delving deep into the flower, its petals swallowing all but their quivering round stripy bottoms. I’m reminded of that description, ‘nectar robbers’, that I discovered in researching my previous blog (here) and its inherent judgement of bad behaviour. Today I’m noticing that the bees go to the sides of the thinner flowers, and plunge into the ones that are more open. Maybe they only ‘rob’ when they can’t get into the flower by other means, and if their behaviour is to be judged, it should be seen as pragmatic rather than illicit.
At 11 am the flowers are surrounded by a haze of tiny Tetragonula carbonaria, doing more hovering than harvesting. Once they do select a flower and land on it they spend some busy time there, collecting. A blue-banded bee hurries in, tongue already out, ready for action. This one hurtles into the centre of a flower and stays there until I move, and it moves. A couple of honey bees glide around. One is repelled by a tetragonula in one flower even though the honey bee is many times larger. A hover fly darts in for a look, slips sideways from one flower to another then flies off again.
At midday the miasma of tetragonula is still there, searching. A honey bee flies in, targeting the flowers that look dead, brown and limp. Some fall off as it lights on them, but most produce what it wants, and a packet of yellow pollen develops on one back leg as it digs and scrapes.
At 1 pm the honey bees are favouring the shadier undergrowth of blue salvia, leaving the wilder reaches of Hot Lips to the tetragonulas.
At 1.30 pm a blue-banded bee hovers in the middle of a wire basket, little wings beating, apparently at frequencies of up to 350 Hz. There is nothing in the wire basket but the bee, and I wonder if it’s performing some sort of arcane mating ritual with its own shadow. If it would just sit still I could see if it has 4 bands (female) or 5 bands (male). A honey bee is still pursuing the dead flowers, now checking out the last little wispy bits of flower that have dropped to the ground. More than a memory, it calls up the sensation of walking with trepidation in bare feet on a path covered in jacaranda flowers – followed by exasperation at my own stupidity when the inevitable happens and the sole of my foot is stung by a bee hidden inside those wilting purple trumpets.
The afternoon clouds over. When the sun re-emerges it appears as a ball of brightness behind the trees. With each moment it falls, its gleams shifting as they hit trunks and branches.
At 4.15 pm, one lone blue-banded bee buzzes its noisy buzz in the pot of salvia.